Issuance Of Poorly Printed Bills On Low-Quality Paper With Inferior Ink Is 'Unfair Trade Practice': Ernakulam District Commission
The Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at Ernakulam recently held that the issuance of poorly printed bills on low-quality paper or with inferior ink amounts to 'deficiency of service' or 'unfair trade practice'. The Bench comprising President D.B. Binu, and Members V. Ramachandran and Sreevidhia T.N. relied upon the decision in Tata Chemicals Ltd. vs Skypak Couriers Pvt. Ltd. (2001),...
The Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at Ernakulam recently held that the issuance of poorly printed bills on low-quality paper or with inferior ink amounts to 'deficiency of service' or 'unfair trade practice'.
The Bench comprising President D.B. Binu, and Members V. Ramachandran and Sreevidhia T.N. relied upon the decision in Tata Chemicals Ltd. vs Skypak Couriers Pvt. Ltd. (2001), which laid down that the inclusion of terms and conditions and other particulars in bills is crucial for ensuring consumers' rights to be informed about the prices of products or services they purchase or hire.
It added that this also provides them with documentary evidence to support claims in Consumer Commissions that they had indeed bought products or hired services from a specific trader or service provider.
"In many countries, including India, consumer protection laws ensure the right to a durable and legible bill or receipt when making purchases, which includes clear and readable details of the transaction, durability against wear and tear, comprehensive itemization including prices and charges, clear indications of taxes and surcharges, information on return policies and warranties, recommendations for retention period, options for electronic receipts, and support from consumer protection authorities in case of disputes or issues," the Bench observed.
The complainant, who is a lawyer, had purchased an HP Laptop, which started experiencing issues within a month of purchase. The complainant averred that when the laptop was given for servicing, only the keyboard was replaced under warranty and that the device experienced further problems, and that its performance also deteriorated in a few months.
He submitted that his requests for replacements were also rejected by the service center, citing a 14-day replacement policy.
The complainant argued that the laptop ought to be covered under the one-year warranty and that the refusal to replace the same was illegal.
He thus sought compensation of Rs. 1,00,000/- for the damages, including loss of work, inability to attend court procedures, and the cost of traveling to the service center during office hours, as well as a further amount of Rs. 25,000/- towards the cost of proceedings.
Noting that the original tax invoice issued by the opposite party was illegible, the Commission stated that the Kerala State Department of Consumer Affairs had issued a directive in July 2019 mandating all government, public, and private entities to provide bills that are both durable and legible.
It further provided that bills printed on low-quality paper or with inferior ink could hinder customers from lodging complaints about services or products since the bills are prone to damage or fading and that the issuance of poorly printed bills may constitute a 'deficiency of service' and 'unfair trade practice' under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
The Commission thus discerned that the order had made it mandatory for all Government, Public Sector, and Private Organizations in Kerala to issue bills that are printed on high-quality paper using superior ink, ensuring their longevity and readability.
It added that as per the new clause (vii) in Section 2(47) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, it has further been stipulated that while providing a bill is necessary, the same ought to be issued in compliance with the specifications set by the Central Government.
Additionally, the Commission noted that Rule 5 of the Consumer Protection (General) Rules, 2020, details the mandatory elements of every invoice, bill, cash memo, or receipt for goods or services, which include the seller's name and address, a unique serial number which should remain unchanged, date of issue, consumer's name, description of goods or services, quantity of goods, shipping address, taxable value, discounts, tax rate. seller's signature (or authorized representative's), customer care contact details, and the total price with a detailed breakdown.
On this basis, the Commission found that the present case amounted to a clear deficiency in service and unfair trade practice.
It thus directed Hewlett-Packard Global Soft PVT Ltd. to replace the complainant's faulty laptop with a new one or to provide the full purchase price to the complainant in the alternative.
It further directed the opposite parties to pay an amount of Rs. 50,000/- as compensation for the deficiency in service and unfair trade practices committed by them, as well as for the mental agony, physical hardships, damages, including loss of work, and inconvenience caused to the complainant, and Rs. 20,000/- towards the cost of proceedings.
The complainant was represented by Advocate Jyothilekshmi.
Case Title: M.S. Sajeev Kumar v. Hewlet-Packard Global Soft PVT Ltd. & Ors.
Case Number: CC No. 498/2021